My morning paradise

My morning paradise

This morning I visited Lighthouse Beach on Sanibel to take photographs for one of my paper’s features called Faces.

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I arrived shortly after 8 a.m. with my camera in hand ready to capture wildlife. The clouds kept the sun away for the entire hour I stayed. With clouds built as far as I could see, I still walked away with more than 130 pictures.

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Although the sun did not beat down on the beach, the wildlife still made its presence. I had so much fun watching the birds every move while capturing their hunt for food in the water and on the sand.

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Most of the birds did not pay any attention to me. I tried to give them their distance as I used my zoom to capture them.

The osprey, perched on the side of the lighthouse and in their nest were the most intriguing.

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The highlight of my trip to the beach was of course the dolphins. Spotting a dolphin will never grow old, never! There is truly something special about watching them play in the water. Today there were three or four of them swimming together.

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I swatted away many sand fleas while trying to keep the camera steady to take photographs of the dolphins.

I thought of my puppy Lucy when I spotted this little lizard. She would have gone nuts trying to chase it.

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The pictures below were taken on a sunset cruise Jason and I took last month of the Lighthouse Beach. It was a completely different perspective . . . a beautiful way to see the shoreline.

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Next month will mark two months since I started on Sanibel as the editor of the Islander. The excitement has not gone away . . .

I work in a beautiful place, a place where I get to explore on a more intimate basis.

 

 

 

Strangely beautiful animals

Strangely beautiful animals

This morning I had an interview on Captiva with Matt, a Florida Gulf Coast University grad student working on a grant challenge about American pen shells. We sat under an umbrella near the water during our interview, which provided such a laid back relaxing atmosphere. The interview was fascinating.

After learning about pen shells and the beautiful pearls they produce, he asked if I wanted to see his home, a sailboat out in the bay near Jensen’s Marina. Before we made it to the end of the dock, we stopped and watched a family of manatees swim around and come up for air. Matt said about seven manatees hang out at the marina, which included a few young manatees. A smile was plastered on my face the entire time. I just could not help it . . . they made me happy as I watched their every move.

I was mesmerized by these strangely beautiful creatures that were so docile. Today was the first time I have been so up-close and personal with these giant animals. It was hard to walk away because they kept drawing me in, which resulted in a slew of photographs.

This was definitely the highlight of my day.

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Forty-six

Forty-six

Friday, April 24, I woke up beyond excited. My countdown was nearing the end. My countdown of when I could leave to pick up Jason.

As the morning progressed, my mood enhanced. The excitement was hard to control.

Friday marked the 47th day since Jason left. I was finally able to greet this man I love face-to-face at the Asheville airport.

On March 9, Jason left for Florida to start working on Sanibel at two jobs he was offered.

I remember that morning like it was yesterday. I remember the emotions that took hold, well to be honest, consumed me. That morning, March 9, was one of the hardest things I was ever faced with. You ask why?

Jason was leaving me in Kingsport, more than 800-miles north of his final destination.

My best friend, my boyfriend, my rock was leaving until we could make ends meet. Our goal was to work countless hours and get enough money together, so he could come back to get me and all of our animals and head back to Fort Myers.

The 46-days we spent a part had many high and low points.

It’s truly inspiring to see what you are capable of doing when faced with a situation like that. A situation where I was living by myself in a state where I had no family or good friends to lean on when needed.

I found such an incredible amount of independence deep down that I had no idea was there. I stayed true to my plan . . . I continued to live without the best part of my life right next to me. I found time to go running with Lucy, my puppy, reaching distances that made me proud. I even found a new passion of cooking healthy meals that were absolutely delicious.

The best, truly gratifying part, was the amount of work I was able to accomplish doing freelance writing for the three papers that hired me. I wrote enough articles and did enough editing to pay all of our bills for the entire month of April. All of our bills were paid by the second week of the month. That spoke volumes. It only reaffirmed that I could take care of myself, truly take care of myself while keeping a roof over my head and food on the table. That accomplishment set the ball rolling in the right direction. All of the hours Jason was working could completely go towards our move back to Fort Myers.

With that milestone met, I was able to book a plane ticket for Jason on April 7, Day 30 of us being a part.

Even with all the positive thoughts I tried to keep in check, I still had a few breakdowns, a few more than I hoped while Jason was away.

It’s crazy how many emotions you go through. I found myself crying at such random times, and also smiling when I least expected. The daily phone calls from my mom on her way home from work were comforting. My older brother also called often checking in on me.

My favorite part of the day was when Jason would call. I could not fall asleep until I heard his voice, to hear how he was doing, to hear he was okay.

I remember one breakdown as clear as day. It started one Friday night while Jason was away. I completely broke down. Lucy, our puppy, helped tremendously that night. She instantly became concerned as the tears violently fell. Lucy began licking the tears away before cuddling in my lap, helping me to gain composure again. I remember walking to bed, but was unable to sleep well at all. The next day my anxiety reached its highest point leaving me paralyzed.

That day was awful. I felt helpless. Everything I tried didn’t help.

Through it all, I felt an incredible amount of closeness to Jason as I lived my life in Kingsport, and he lived his in Fort Myers. Although we were living our separate lives, I felt we were still sharing our life together. We became closer. He remained my rock. He gave me tough love when I needed it to break through when I got the sinking feeling.

Jason shared how much he loved me and missed me on a daily basis. I felt how hard it was for him, as well, through our conversations. I knew, without a doubt, that he was doing everything in his power to come back to me sooner. Although he sounded exhausted on more than one occasion he woke the next day and worked another 15+ hour day, all so he could keep that promise he made before leaving.

So, back to Friday, April 24.

I arrived at the airport at 12:27 and he was supposed to land at 12:32. It was absolutely perfect timing. I had enough time to make a quick bathroom break and then stand where I could see Jason come into view.

It never fails. Six minutes turned into the longest 45-minutes of my life. Jason’s plane was delayed leaving Punta Gorda.

As soon as I saw him, I felt my entire body relax. I felt complete again. My true love was now in my presence. He was now standing in front of me. I was able to hug him, kiss him, see his smile instead of hearing the smile form over the phone.

I was giddy as all hell.

The relaxation that flowed through Jason’s body told me our decision to be a part was more than worth it. It was worth it because everything was coming together for us. Almost like it was meant to happen the way it did. Jason has been able to find work and continues to find more work. The stress we felt about making ends meet in Kingsport, I could sense was vanishing. He almost looked stress free. I didn’t even have to ask if we did the right thing.

The rest of the day was absolutely perfect. It was spent one-on-one, as well as with some of the friends we had made in Tennessee. I must have told Jason a hundred times how nice it was to have him back home. Well home, for the next 24+ hours until we headed south to Fort Myers.

Leo and Lucy at one of the many gas stations we had to stop at to fill up the truck.

Leo and Lucy at one of the many gas stations we had to stop at to fill up the truck.

After the truck was packed and we said our goodbyes to Frazier, we slowed down and fell asleep for a while before we hit the road at 1:30 a.m. Sunday.

Those early morning hours finally ended as we arrived in Fort Myers around 8 p.m.

It was an incredibly long drive, especially when traveling with three animals.

Our poor Leo had a difficult six or seven hours before he finally calmed down and found some comfort with our puppy Lucy. Kimber was frightened and let us know she wanted out of the truck hours ago.

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Leo finally relaxed as Lucy layed on him.

Leo finally relaxed as Lucy layed on him.

Even through the constant desire to be out of a moving vehicle, Jason and I had some amazing conversations, especially as we neared 17 hours on the road.

Our connection only intensified. Our connection only strengthened, as we had those deep conversations of our present circumstances, our future plans and goals.

A cloud came into view that resembled a heart as we neared Fort Myers.

A cloud came into view that resembled a heart as we neared Fort Myers.

Time a part definitely makes the heart grow fonder. I feel so much closer to a man I had already felt a deep connection with.

Now we are in the limbo stages staying with my parents until our new place is ready this weekend. I’m looking forward to making us a new home once again. I’m looking forward to getting us to the point where we can both relax with all of our belongings and animals all under one roof again.

Another chapter has been closed. Another chapter is already well on its way. Our lives are intertwined again in the same state, under the same roof.

We are living in Southwest Florida once again surrounded by family and friends.

Two years ago tomorrow, we traveled to Kingsport to start a new life. We arrived at our new home on May 1. Who would have thought we would be back in Fort Myers so soon?

Flood of memories

Flood of memories

A flood of memories took hold this morning after Lucy and I went to Bays Mountain. The first adventure Jason, Lisa and I had after we arrived in Kingsport almost two years ago.

This morning I needed more than just a run. I needed to get lost in the woods for a little while. So around 11, we started getting ready to go for a hike.

As soon as we arrived I spotted a chipmunk, which I haven’t seen since one of the first times we went hiking at Bays Mountain. The best part was Lucy had no idea what I was looking at, so I was able to capture a shot. A picture with food in his mouth.

I knew it was going to be a great hike after that.

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We first headed to the spot where that adventure took place. That adventure almost two years ago. An adventure that led us to a waterfall.

waterfall 3As soon as I heard the noise I became emotional. As soon as I stepped out near the top of the waterfall memories came flooding back.

I felt Jason with me . . . wishing he was beside me instead of hundreds of miles away.

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waterfall 1All of my memories from that day in May 2013 consumed me as I found a rock to sit on and take in the scenery. We had so much fun that afternoon exploring the outdoors of our new home.

IMG_3141 editWe created so many of our own little adventures that day. So many adventures that made me begin to beat my fear of heights, all with the help of Jason by my side.

The laughter filled my veins as I looked around, really looked around, and remembered the fun we had that afternoon.

IMG_3144 editI sat there on that rock for as long as Lucy let me.

IMG_3145 editFor as long as she allowed me to listen to the rushing water while sorting through my thoughts.

IMG_3146 editOf course those thoughts began tugging at the tears I somehow managed to prevent from falling. Happy tears. Happy tears of how far Jason and I have come since that day. Since that first adventure.

IMG_3151 editLucy finally had enough, so with a heavy heart we kept on hiking.

There was a smile on my face from that moment on, especially when the flood of memories continued of everything Jason and I have seen since we moved to Kingsport in May 2013. The smile was because a relationship that was already strong when me made that move together, has only grown leaps and bounds since then. That smile was because I have the heart of a man who will do anything to make me happy. This time a part has proven that on so many levels.

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IMG_3171 editThe further we hiked the Lakeside Trail the deeper in thought I became. There is just something about the outdoors that fully allows your mind to wander. Although I was deep in thought, the noises of the outdoors still captured me, as well as the beauty that lined the trails.

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IMG_3176 editI’m so glad I had Lucy with me. She brought me back into the moment as she too enjoyed the outdoors.

As always, here’s our hike through Lucy’s eyes.

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One of my hopes before leaving the house this morning was spotting signs of spring. I was so excited when I saw a tree along the water that was showing life again. The only tree along the path we decided to hike.

My trip was complete. I’ve been excited about spring all winter. It is one of my favorite seasons. There’s something special about watching nature come back to life.

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spring 2It’s hard to believe that tomorrow marks two weeks since Jason packed his car and headed to Florida to get us ready for our move. A move that would bring us closer to family and friends.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss Jason. There is not a day that goes by that I wish he was here with me, or I was there with him.

This transition period, however has shown me what I am capable of . . . what kind of strength I have. I have become independent on a level that has made me proud. A level of independence that has shown me I am much stronger than I have ever thought or gave myself credit for.

Today was a great day. A day that made me think of all the beautiful moments Jason and I have shared since moving to NE Tennessee.

Rollercoaster . . .

Rollercoaster . . .

I have definitely been on a rollercoaster of emotions this week, which I have to admit is very exhausting.

Yesterday, although my day did not start with a phone call from Jason, nor ended with a phone call from him . . . well, it went okay . . . until sleep completely escaped me.

The highlights of my day yesterday, day four of Jason being gone . . .

A phone call from my mom and my older brother Bill, as well as an overdue much-needed run with my best little buddy, my puppy Lucy.

I had a ton of copy editing I had to accomplish for one of the newspapers I work for in Arizona, which kept me extremely busy.

A phone call from my mom prompted an escape from my computer. She knows me well and knows what will help.

Exercise.

Almost every single day since Monday, my mom has made it a point to call and check up on me. I look forward to that friendly phone call, even if there is not anything new to share. There’s a huge comfort that comes with just hearing her voice.

So, after she told me to go for a run, I listened. I threw on my running clothes and put Lucy’s collar on and we headed to our old stomping grounds. Thankfully that portion of the Greenbelt that we enjoy using was open.

It was however a muddy mess with portions of the path still underwater. Yesterday I just didn’t care . . . I needed that run more than anything.

Although the music was streaming through my headphones, I couldn’t tell you what I was listening to during that 3 mile run. My thoughts were jetting in every possible direction. That was exactly the therapy I needed. Sometimes you don’t fully know everything you’re holding in until you are faced with open space and a route you want to complete.

As Lucy and I embraced the 70 degree temperatures and occasional rays of sunshine, our speed was not fast, but consistent until my body told me no more.

I felt good when we called it quits. I was proud of myself for making it to the Greenbelt to go for a run.

Here are a few pictures from yesterday . . .

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20150312_170143 editI was on a runner’s high after we returned home. It stayed with me for quite a few hours. I was excited that my meal, a recipe I found on Pinterest, tasted great. A mixture of hard-boiled eggs, avocado, onion, Greek yogurt, lemon juice and pepper on multi-grain bread topped with a tomato. It was delicious.

With a full belly, it was back to my desk to finish the copy editing I put on hold. This is when I received a surprise phone call from my older brother. I absolutely love hearing from him. No matter how many miles separate us, he’s always there for me, always looking out for me, always making sure I am okay. There’s truly nothing greater than a love from an older brother. His understanding voice, his open ears, lifted my spirits enabling me to finish my work for the night.

I watched a few television shows before heading to bed. I have to admit I was really looking forward to my phone ringing once more. The phone call never came.

I ended up falling asleep, waking to a text from Jason. A text message I never answered.

Last night I only managed to get a few hours of sleep. I thought for sure with exercising and, well, being exhausted from the week’s events would bring on the sleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Unfortunately I was terribly let down . . .

I wish Jason was here besides me, or I was already there besides him. I sleep so much better when I know he is laying besides me or in the same house.

My strength is there, although not as strong as I need it to be at times. My smile comes and goes as the tears take its place, still at the most random times.

This experience, although is still in the beginning stages has proven to be difficult, but not unmanageable.

I am beyond grateful I have Lucy, my sweet, affectionate, cuddly, beautiful puppy. There is truly no better companion than that of a dog.

Lucy makes me laugh, keeping my spirits high.

She gives me the comfort I need throughout the day and even while we are sleeping.

Ever since Monday, Lucy snuggles even closer to me in bed. Her body is curled up against mine at all times, never straying away. This comforts me in a way I cannot explain.

Today she has not left my side. She’s been asleep in my lap while I work at my desk, occasionally looking at me with those puppy eyes. I can feel her telling me it’s okay.

Every day is a new challenge. Every day I am faced with new and old emotions. Every day I pray that our time a part is almost over.

I love being independent, but I love having Jason here with me. I love sharing my life with him in the same space without hundreds of miles separating us.

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I only hope that the strength I know I have stays consistant from here on out. I need more of my good days that are filled with high spirits. Those feelings, those emotions, will make the time a part easier to handle . . .

Another layer of snow

Another layer of snow

This morning we woke to an absolutely gorgeous winter wonderland.

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For the first time so far this winter, the tree branches hung onto a pretty thick layer of new fluffy snow. I have to admit that is my favorite part about snow. There truly is nothing prettier than white covering the darker hue of the branches.

IMG_3047 editWithin a few hours the snow began falling from the trees making it look like it was snowing again. IMG_3053 edit IMG_3060 edut

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I’m so glad Lucy and I woke when we did this morning, a little after 7 a.m. to witness the beauty and quietness of a fresh snowfall from the night before.

We probably received another 5 inches of snow. This of course was on top of the layer of snow, yes even ice, that has been on the ground since Monday, Feb. 16. We have had snow on the ground for 11 days!

I’m so proud of Lucy. She is getting the hang of going outside running crazy in the snow and even going to the bathroom IN THE SNOW! This morning when we ventured outside the snow was a little deeper than we both expected. Her legs disappeared as she walked to find a spot to go to the bathroom. My little short leg puppy.

IMG_3064 editShe loves eating the snow, which is comical. Her new favorite game . . . chasing after snowballs.

Here are a few pictures from this morning. She needed to go outside and let off some steam . . . and well I needed to walk away from my desk.

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And then the running began .  . . my favorite picture of today . . . her running mid-stride towards me with her ears flapping . . .

IMG_3069 editPoor thing was covered in snow once she reached me.

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Here are a few more pictures from this morning of the snow that blanketed our backyard and the fence that runs the distance of the yard.

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IMG_3063 editThe snow is absolutely gorgeous to look at . . . but I have to admit I am ready for the spring to come, as well as the sunshine and warmer temperatures.

 

Broke my heart

Broke my heart

My heart broke a little this morning.

We have quite a few inches of snow on the ground, which is beautiful. There’s just something peaceful about the grass blanketed with snow. A layer of white covering everything in sight. A certain kind of quietness takes hold as you become mesmerized by the tiny to large snowflakes falling in front of you.

This beauty, however, has been hard . . .

I’ve never experienced having a dog during the winter where there’s snow.

Lucy walking in the snow for the first time Monday, Feb. 16.

Lucy walking in the snow for the first time Monday, Feb. 16.

At first Lucy, our 13-month old puppy, loved playing in the snow before it accumulated and made a few inch layer over the grass. I have video of her running in circles picking up small pieces and tossing it in the air before eating little pieces.

One of the challenges I have found is Lucy finding somewhere to go to the bathroom. There are certain areas of the backyard where she will go, which are all off to the side of the property.

The first day we had snow she walked me over to her typical spot. When she couldn’t find the grass and leaves, she became confused and took me to another corner of the property.

As we walked, her little paws sunk into the snow, which made her balance shake a little. On our way back to the house, she found my foot prints and started using those to walk on. That’s one smart pup. Although this helped, at one point she stopped and began climbing up my leg, so I picked her up and carried her back to the house. I knew by that point, she could not handle the cold anymore.

You hear all the time that animals are affected by the cold weather too. That they too should be taken out of the elements.

I know how cold the temperatures are to me. I could only imagine how cold it is for Lucy. My feet are covered, as well as my entire body with layer upon layer. A dog has it’s fur, which I’m sure isn’t nearly as thick and warm as it needs to be to protect them from the cold.

As of this morning I have a full understanding of just how cold the elements are for my puppy.

We went outside, so she could go to the bathroom. We walked down the sidewalk around the side of the house. There’s an open space under our house that has some vegetation that hasn’t been touched by the snow. This is the only area I have found where she will go to the bathroom.

My little pokey puppy, however, had to check out the snow and sniff along the fence that runs alongside our property for a while all while sinking further into the snow turning her belly white. There is a beautiful German Shepherd that lives next door that runs along that fence. Lucy was smelling her scent.

I finally was able to talk her into walking back under the house when she finally did her business. After telling her what a good girl she was we started walking through the snow to reach the sidewalk to the front door.

As soon as I opened the door, Lucy walked inside.

This is when the tears almost took hold . . .

When I closed the door Lucy collapsed after taking a few steps. As soon as her hind legs gave out, she started whimpering and looked up at me with the saddest eyes. The whimpering went right through me . . .

I quickly scooped her up and walked into my office where the little space heater was running. I wiped off her paws with a towel and sat in front of the heater with her in my lap until she stopped shaking.

Now I know just how cold and unpleasant it is for this poor little puppy to be outdoors.

When she was comfortable, I sat down and clicked on Facebook because it was showing I had a message. As I was scrolling through the feed I saw an article about keeping animals safe during this kind of weather.

The article said that dogs and cats have good heat exchange through their feet and pads, which means it doesn’t take much time for them to get cold. Dogs, according to the article, can get frost bite too.

I sure hope that’s not what Lucy just experienced.

My heart goes out to the dogs that are left outside during this kind of weather. Animals should have some kind of safe haven they can go to during extreme temperatures and weather conditions.

I know my puppy does. She is spoiled beyond belief . . . blankets, space heaters and even a little sweater to keep her warm.

I just hope that pet owners are smart and give their animals the correct care during snow storms and cold fronts that are expected to dip down into the negatives over the next few days.